B.C.’s public safety minister says he needs to be assured that Surrey’s decision to stick with RCMP will keep the city safe.
“This is a two-step process,” Mike Farnworth said Friday (June 16) in Victoria. “The City of Surrey, one, gets to choose the police force, but my responsibility is the second part of that process which is to ensure safe and effective policing in the City of Surrey and the province and that the conditions – the requirements – that I laid out a number of weeks ago are met.”
In what she called a “return to normalcy” in the city, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke announced Friday that in a closed-door vote Thursday, city council voted to keep RCMP as its police of jurisdiction, cancelling the transition to Surrey Police Service.
Farnworth said he spoke to Locke Thursday and she told him the intention of council to keep RCMP.
“The City of Surrey wants this resolved. I want this resolved,” he said. “One of the key issues… is ensuring stabilization, both in terms of Surrey and the rest of the province. These are issues that my staff and I have been very concerned about.”
Farnworth said the City of Surrey offered its corporate report under a non-disclosure agreement and the province will review it “quickly to ensure that the people of Surrey remain safe.”
”We continue to require a comprehensive plan from the city to meet the requirements I laid out as necessary. In the absence of such a plan, this could quickly destabilize an already precarious situation in Surrey and significantly decrease police presence in other areas of the province.”
He said while he understands the stress the whole process has caused to those in policing, his priority has always been public safety.
“I fully understand that whenever there’s a situation such as this, whether to continue with one police force or another, that creates a lot of anxiety, a lot of speculation, a lot of concern among the affected individuals. That’s been very much front and centre in terms of the work that was undertaken by my staff within my ministry to ensure that whatever path was chosen ensures safe and effective policing.”
In April, Farnworth recommended Surrey’s transition to the Surrey Police Service should continue. The province also offered financial support – up to $150 million over the next five years – to the City of Surrey if it chose to continue the transition to a municipal police force to ensure no additional costs to Surrey residents.
The RCMP has been Surrey’s police of jurisdiction since it took over from the Surrey Police on May 1, 1951, as the result of a plebiscite. Surrey’s is the largest RCMP detachment in all of Canada.
On Nov. 5, 2018, the council of the day, led by mayor Doug McCallum, served notice to the provincial and federal governments that it would end its contract with the RCMP to set up its own force.
Four years and one civic election later, on Nov. 14, 2022, the current council led by Mayor Brenda Locke decided on a 5-4 vote to maintain the Surrey RCMP as this city’s police of jurisdiction instead of forging ahead with the Surrey Police Service.
“The City of Surrey does have a right to choose its police force,” Farnworth said Friday.
With files from Tom Zytaruk